Zárate started his career with Vélez Sarsfield in his native country, playing three years for the team and winning the Primera Division title in the 2005 Clausura tournament. He later signed for Qatari side Al-Sadd in 2007, where he played only six months before transferring on loan to Birmingham City in England. However, after Birmingham's relegation, Zárate was loaned out again, this time to Lazio in Italy, where he won the Coppa Italia. His move to Lazio was then made permanent for a fee of around €20 million, with a €60 million buy-out clause. After a loan at Internazionale and a brief return to Vélez Sarsfield, he joined West Ham in 2014. On 6 January 2015, he joined Queens Park Rangers on loan for the remainder of 2014-15 season.
In international football, Zárate scored the winning goal as the Argentina under-20 team won the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup final.
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